The Trial of the Spirit
The room was completely empty, the walls bare and smooth, the vaulted ceiling far away. There were no windows, but a single light cast a blue glow that reflected off the polished floor. It was eerily silent. Even the room's occupant, a Jedi Padawan named Ciaràn Surin, made no noise as he focused on taking long, slow, even breaths.
He was kneeling with his back against a wall, feet tucked under him, horned head bowed and bronze eyes closed in meditation. The hilt of a double bladed lightsaber rested in front of him, and he reached one hand out to touch it almost reverently before drawing his fingers back into the folds of his robe. He thought back to the weeks he'd spent building it. His first lightsaber had been far simpler, a hastily constructed machine with a green crystal at it's core. He'd been so young then, so anxious to begin his training. At that time, he had been nothing more than muscle and instinct and command of the Force.
He was, of course, still all of those things, and his lightsaber was all of those things personified. Muscle, in the sense that it was constructed of an unyielding titanium alloy; instinct, because he had known, without ever touching one, that a double blade was going to be right; and the hours that he had spent meditating, pouring his essence into the crystals and the mechanics, had given the blade the distinct feel of who he was as a Jedi.
The lightsaber was an integral part of him, just as he was a part of it. This was the lesson that Master Drallig had spent years trying to impart to him: that if he wished to become a true swordmaster, he needed to do more than simply go through the motions of building a weapon and learning the seven combat forms. This was what he had come here to meditate on.
He felt the disturbance long before any of this other senses could pick it up. There was another presence in the room, whose pulse could be felt echoing through the Force as he approached the Padawan. Ciaràn opened his eyes, but didn't look up until the other figure had reached him. Slowly, his gaze traveled from the black boots that paused just beyond the lightsaber hilt, up along the lean body, and finally locked on a pair of eyes only a few shades closer to gold than his own. It was something like looking into a mirror, and yet it couldn't possibly be a reflection. Although the figure before him was also a Zabrak, also red skinned, he was dressed entirely in black, and every inch that wasn't covered by fabric was marked by the jagged lines of black tattoos. One hand strayed toward a familiar looking weapon on his belt.
Ciaràn reached for his own lightsaber out of instinct. But when he moved, he realized that his was now the tattooed hand, and it was he who held the familiar (but not quite right) hilt. But he didn't have the time to think too long. A lightsaber arced toward his head, and as he stood, coming to his feet in one graceful, fluid movement, he found that he was blocking against the silver blade that he had so lovingly crafted.
The other-him pulled back, attacking high, then low, then high again. He blocked each thrust with a crimson blade, making sure to keep just the right distance between himself and his opponent, so that he could focus on the eyes. There was always something telling about a duelist's eyes. The tiniest flicker of the pupil betrayed the position he planned to move to, the way they widened and contracted belied awe that the Zabrak would never show on his face; he respected his opponent.
Attack-- Parry-- Riposte-- The action sped up to a point where the movements of the individual weapons became too fast to see. It didn't matter; they didn't need to see. The Force directed their actions, and the distinction between he moves, I move faded to nothing. They were, effectively, one being, one blindingly powerful presence that was a combination of the steady concentration of the Light and the focused anger of the Dark, and it made them nearly matched for skill.
There was a sudden, burning pain in his chest, and the Zabrak looked down to see the silver blade half buried in the muscle just below his shoulder. He fell to his knees as the blade was pulled back.
The Jedi Padawan looked down at him. "Who are you?"
There was only a smile in return. "I am the power you could have been."
The silver blade neatly separated the tattooed head from the black-clad shoulders.
Darkness, of both the physical and metaphysical varieties, washed over him as the vision faded. A cold voice whispered of his failure, of how he had left her to suffer in his stead.
The door to the room opened, and Battlemaster Cin Drallig came to stand beside his silent and unmoving Padawan. It wasn't until he reached out to take the still-ignited lightsaber from his hands that Ciaràn jerked his head up to look at him. There was a soft hiss as the two ends of the blade were retracted.
Drallig did not ask how his apprentice felt. That would have been too close to a pleasantry, something that their relationship had long since surpassed. Nor did he ask if Ciaràn had seen a vision, because that would have been stating the obvious. Instead, he directed his gaze to the hilt of the saber, turning it over gently in his hands. "A truly elegant weapon," he said finally. "Worthy of a Jedi Knight."
Ciaràn did not respond; he didn't need to tell Drallig how deeply the compliment touched him. The Padawan had long ago learned that there was no reason to use words superfluously. His eyes told his Master everything he needed to know as he took the lightsaber back and reattached it to his service belt with a sort of grim determination expressed in the way he moved and the set of his face. He would proceed forward, and he would leave whatever demons he had faced here in the room behind him.
It was more difficult to leave behind the memories of a youthful painted face, because he knew now that he never could have gone the length he'd need to if he'd truly wanted to save her.